Actually, the claim that Obama has so far accomplished nothing concrete on the world stage is exaggerated. Under his leadership, the G-20 meeting in March, at the depths of the financial crisis, exceeded expectations, producing a strong financial commitment to cushion the downturn for developing nations. The G-20 in late September also surpassed expectations, effectively establishing the G-20 as successor to the G-8 in real decision-making power and subjecting member nations to regulatory peer review. The meeting of the U.N. Security Council last month exceeded expectations, securing a commitment to revitalize and strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And the highest-level direct negotiation with Iran in 30 years exceeded expectations, yielding Iran's agreement to submit about 75% of its known nuclear stockpile to Russia for enrichment and to open its newly disclosed nuclear facility outside Qom to inspection.
Mr. Obama said he doesn't view the award "as a recognition of my own accomplishments," but rather as a recognition of goals he has set for the U.S. and the world. Mr. Obama said, "I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize."
But, he said, "I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.''
Of the G-20 meeting in March, Philip Stephens wrote, "Mr Obama shows wisdom beyond his years in realising that to understand the extent of US power – and it is still unrivalled – a president must also map its limits" That's true of all four of the meetings referenced above. That's why each yielded something concrete.
Not the stuff of a Nobel by established standards, perhaps. But Obama has done far more than deliver a handful of uplifting speeches on the world stage. Though those speeches themselves were a key part of the paradigm shift that Stephens articulated.